Creating value with trademark management
Many entrepreneurs, sometimes even at bigger companies, have not fully realized that trademark actions and management is a vital part of their company branding strategy. It can even be THE most important part. We strive for our customers to dominate their respective markets with the help of their brands. That will not happen without modern trademark management.
Let me clarify the concept
A brand identifies a specific product, service or name of a company. When your brand is doing its job (with your help), it evokes positive images and emotions in the target group, which is why a brand can be so valuable. Because of a brand name's importance, many companies want to protect it through a trademark registration.
A trademark is a registered brand or trade name. It can include combinations of a name, slogan, logo, sounds or colors that identify the company or its products or services. A trademark provides legal protection of the brand name. Through registration, the company is able to seek legal action against others who copy or use the brand without permission. A trademark registration is also a way of telling the outside world that your brand represents something important and valuable (worth protecting and worth buying). Why else would you spend time and money on a registration process?
How do companies manage their brands today?
A clear and relevant brand image is a powerful tool for promoting and marketing your goods and services. Still, many companies tend to focus their priorities and allocate a major part of their resources to R&D and to product conceptualization. This is of course very important and definitely necessary, but it is not enough to put you ahead of your competitors and stay on top. Entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized companies often lack a brand strategy or may not know how to develop a brand image to support their business. Some also mistakenly believe that brand development is reserved only for larger enterprises.
When establishing your brand and ensuring the protection of the same, you almost always have to deal with legal issues and situations. Protecting your product or business brand is a fundamental aspect of your market presence. So, from the very beginning of your business journey, you should create a plan for protecting and maintaining your intangible assets and rights (IP), including trademarks, copyright, patents, design, contracts, business models or whatever might be the assets that represents a great value to your business.
Trademark fundamentals from the experts
Being experts in trademark management, we know that developing a strong brand should be a first priority. If it is first being adressed when your business is already established and running, the risk of getting into legal trouble increases by each marketing and event activity, each sales initiative and each and every market launch you perform.
With this in mind, please have a look at our 9 advice that will help you build strong brands and sucessfully manage your trademark processes:
- Trademarks should strengthen your business. For those less experienced in intellectual property, the creation of intellectual property in general and trademarks in particular can be seen as "box-ticking" exercise. It’s something that you feel you have to have and so you follow the steps. Such an attitude can be completely fatal to your business. The trademarks that you create strengthen your business and allow you to protect it. Many don’t realize the value of them until they are under threat or the full cost of losing them is applied to the company’s bank balance. Up to 80 % of your company value can be based on trademark assets. Valuing your IP from the start and being aware of what it can or will contribute to the success of your company, will save a lot of heartache down the road.
- Try to be different. All intangible assets and rights, whether they are trademarks, copyright, patents, business models etc, is a creation of the mind. You would not be able to obtain viable copyright of a song lyric that is a copy of another songwriter. The same goes for Trademarks. Creating something unique will always be a benefit when building a brand as a fundamental part of your business. The essential issue in oppositions to your trademark registration or in infringement claims, is the likelihood of a ”normal” consumer of the products becoming confused as to who is actually the source of the product they just bought. The trademark systems varies a bit around the world, but the "likelihood of confusion" principle applies everywhere. And in today’s digital world, you are likely to become a global ”target” as soon as you go live on the Internet.
- Identification is key. Trademarks differ from other forms of intellectual property in one very clear aspect. Most other types of IP protect a product of one form or another. A trademark on the other hand protects the origin of the source of the products or concepts rather than the product or concept itself. As an example, the Nike logo is instantly recognisable around the world but the function of the registered trademark is to state that the product you have purchased came from Nike Inc. A potential trademark infringement claim would not address any similarity in the products (although this may also play a role in creating an impression) but instead, would address a potential impression that a product was manufactured by Nike Inc when such was not the case.
- Is there a comprehensive protection? No matter how robust your clearance process might be, it is never complete and covering all possible aspects. Nonetheless, it is an important step. How important that step might be will depend on your country, your business, your industry and your strategy for the future. But there are major benefits to having taken this step in the process that exceed merely assessing registrability.
- A myriad of unforseen situations. I don´t know how many trademarks have been registered that have never experienced a challenge of one sort or another throughout their entire lifecycle, but when you get into trouble, it is no fun. For example:
- You can become a victim of your own success, inspiring counterfeits globally and create badwill through oppositions.
- An evolution of your business, or even a minor change, can sometimes mean a change to the products and services you provide that means the trademark needs to be updated as well. The number of unforeseen circumstances in which you can run into trouble are countless.
- Registered, not necessarily protected. In many cases, or at least in the initial stages, people creating the IP for their company often understandably tend to focus on registrability, and there is no doubt that it is important. But there is a huge difference between a trademark that can very easily obtain a registration just because the registration rules are followed and one that gets a protection based on unique market conditions, particularly as you extend protection across multiple regions and markets. It is not the only factor but this is one area in which originality come into play. The more unique and distinctive your brands are, the easier they will be to protect long term - “To be irreplaceable, one must always be different”.
- Cover every angle. Failing to adequately protect your trademarks has the potential to cost a lot. At the dramatic end of the scale, a complete re-branding of products could be required leading to thousands of dollars lost in unusable concepts, packaging, products, marketing campaigns, identification, material etc. along with time lost in a fast moving marketplace. Trademarks strengthen your business and they are an investment in the future of your business.
- Get attention for the right reasons. When discussing monitoring strategies with businesses of all sizes, Core business trademarks tend to get the most attention and in some cases, short product life-cycles in some industries actually make monitoring against infringement unnecessary. That said, many attorneys express concern that clients do not monitor their trademarks to the extent they could. Traditional time-consuming and high costs methods of monitoring have had a big impact before but it is no longer the case. If you haven’t recently done so, re-evaluating your monitoring strategy and the tools available might be a worthwhile investment.
- Manage changes. Trademarks are strongly connected to when and how they are being used. Even small changes to a registered trademark used on packaging, for example, can have fatal consequences. During the evolution of any business, it is normal for products and services to change – sometimes to something very different. Creating a best practice policy of examining your existing registration when making changes either to the brand, the packaging or the products or services themselves, will ensure that they still match the registration. This can avoid many potential issues.
Why not get a second opinion from the experts?
We can set you on the right track to help you understand if your trademarks protect the company's business and revenue and if the trademark assets have the value it could have. In a Second Opinion analysis, we will show you if and in what way your trademarks and the company's business offer have good matching. When we present the analysis, you will simultaneously get recommendations for possible measures.